Plymouth Company, or Virginia Company of Plymouth , a branch of an English joint-stock company chartered in 1606 to establish colonies in North America. (The other branch was the Virginia Company of London.) The Plymouth Company, which was based in Plymouth, England, founded a colony in Maine in 1607, but the settlers abandoned it the following year. The company was later reorganized as the Council for New England (1620–35), which granted a patent (permission for settlement) to Pilgrims already at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and sponsored the first permanent settlements in Maine and New Hampshire.
The Plymouth Company's charter covered territory reaching from the mouth of the St. Croix River, now the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, south to a point on a line with the mouth of the Potomac River. The chartered area overlapped in the south with that of the other branch, the Virginia Company of London, whose territory extended north to the present location of Greenwich, Connecticut. The two branches, however, were to maintain a distance of 100 miles (160 km) between their colonies, a provision that made it possible for the Dutch to establish themselves on the Hudson River.
Leaders of the Plymouth Company were Sir John Popham, lord chief justice of England, and Sir Ferdinando Gorges. After exploring the coast of Maine, in 1607 the company sent out a group of about 120 colonists to settle at the mouth of the Sagadahoc (Kennebec) River. The president of the colony was George Popham, kinsman of Sir John.
The colonists built a fort, 50 dwellings, a church, a storehouse, and, over the winter, a 30-ton ship, the Virginia of Sagadahoc. There was not a single death that winter. President Popham died in the spring, however, and the supply ship brought news of Sir John's death. Discouraged by the severity of Maine's winter and torn by factional quarrels, the colonists returned to England in the fall of 1608.
Under Sir Francis Popham, son of Sir John, and Gorges, the Plymouth Company persisted in efforts to colonize Maine. Several successful fishing and trading expeditions were sent over. In 1620 Gorges obtained a new charter and reorganized the company as the Council for New England.